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CarNerd: Ball Joint Replacement

Updated on May 19, 2014
Ball Joint
Ball Joint | Source

Whether you snapped a ball joint off-roading or the bugger is simply rusting away, here is a laid out, simple to follow, explanation of how to save a buck by replacing it yourself.

The model for today is a lovely 97' Mercury Sable that has seen better days. The left driver's side ball joint is rusty to the point that it may break. This bugger was discovered because, as the ball joint rusted, an overly loud and increasingly annoying squeak was heard from the front end when the stirring wheel was turned at slower speeds.

Tools Needed

  • Ball Joint Press, (can be rented at most auto parts stores)
  • Impact Gun(aka air gun)
  • Air Hammer
  • Ball Joint Separator, (a.k.a pickle fork)
  • Wrenches
  • Pry Bar
  • Hammers
  • Impact Sockets
  • PB Blaster
  • Jack and Jack Stands
Hang Caliper by an old metal wire or string.
Hang Caliper by an old metal wire or string. | Source

1. Brake Caliper and Rotor Removal

Unbolt the caliper and use an old coat hanger or stiff wire to hold the caliper in place. Do not let the caliper hang by the brake line as this can cause damage to the brake hose.

Remove the brake rotor. If the brake rotor is stuck, use a plastic headed hammer(or rubber mallet) and hit the rotor until rotor comes free. A metal hammer is not recommended because you will cause damage to the rotor. If the rotor is overly scored or rusted, you may want to think about changing it.

Tie rod(long thing).  Stirring Knuckle on top of Tie Rod.
Tie rod(long thing). Stirring Knuckle on top of Tie Rod. | Source
Pickled Fork separating the stirring rod
Pickled Fork separating the stirring rod | Source

2. Tie Rod Removal

Before you go any further, you are going to want to separate the tie rod from the stirring knuckle. To do this, take the pickle fork and wedge it in-between the tie rod and the stirring knuckle. Tap the end of the pickle fork with a hammer to further wedge it into the joint.

Remove the nut that holds the tie rod to the stirring knuckle. As you loosen the nut, tap the pickle fork in further after every few turns of the nut to prevent the tie rod from spinning.This process will separate the tie rod from the stirring knuckle.

Cotter Pin
Cotter Pin | Source
CV Axle
CV Axle | Source

3. CV Axle Removal

In the center of your wheel hub, you will notice a very large nut. Loosen and remove said nut.

Depending on the vehicle the nut may be held in place by a Cotter Pin. If your car has a Cotter Pin holding the nut, remove the Cotter Pin completely before removing the nut.

Once the nut is removed, grab the CV Axle from behind the stirring knuckle and push towards the center of the car. This should force the CV Axle out of the wheel hub.

If this does not work, you may have to tap on the end of the CV Axle with a plastic headed hammer or rubber mallet to force it out.


4. Separation of Ball Joint from Steering Knuckle

Once the CV Axle has been removed, unbolt the ball joint, again check for a cotter pin, then place the pickled fork in between the steering knuckle and the lower control arm. Hit the pickled fork with a hammer to wedge it between. Continue hitting the pickled fork with a hammer until it separates the joint, or an air hammer can be used to wedge the pickled fork between the two.

*Note: For some cars, the ball joint and the control arm is a single unit, and must be replaced together; especially with modern cars. If so, press work is not required.

5. Removing Steering Knuckle from Strut Tower

At the bottom of the strut tower, there is a through bolt, this bolt pinches the steering knuckle onto the bottom of the strut, this needs to be carefully removed.

Once the bolt(s) is removed, tap on the steering knuckle with a hammer to remove it from the strut. Once the knuckle has been removed from the strut, you should be able to remove the knuckle from the car.

Press Work-Ball Joint

You can either take your steering knuckle to a machine shop and have the old ball joint pressed out and the new one pressed in for a fee, or you can rent a ball joint press kit and do it yourself.

Every car is different, thus make sure that you follow the directions in the kit for your car if you decide to do it yourself.


*Note: Always use the new hardware that is supplied with the new ball joint.

**Note: Where ever a cotter pin has been removed, make sure to use a new pin unless the pin is in excellent shape.

For reassembly, do the reverse of removal.

Quick Video on Ball Joint Replacement


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